All great managers help their staff score goals.  Success breeds success.  Consultants are no different.  They may appear immune to difficulties, this is only a ruse.  They need positive feedback as much or even more than your staff.  Why?  They often work in a dysfunction firm, trust me I know, and their only feedback is from clients.

By creating an easy goal and letting them score it, you will notice a lift in their spirits as they perceive that this assignment is going to enjoyable and see a future of self actualization. Never forget Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Create leverage to maximize the value for money

On all projects, ensure you use in-house staff in the project team. In most cases where a client has said “We do not have the resources” I have been able to prove otherwise.  Graduates with bright, quick, and insightful minds can be located. All you need to do is search the employee database.  Ensure you have assigned at least two young staff members to the project.  You will have rescued them from some meaningless task.

These young graduates will reduce the time spent by the consultants, and at the same time make the project more interesting for the consultants.  There are few experienced consultants who do not enjoy working with some young and motivated in-house staff.

Control the consultant and project by quadrants

Project management software was first designed for very complex projects such as putting an astronaut on the moon.  Sometimes the project reporting suddenly takes on a life of its own.  Consultants costing in excess of $200 per hour are completing endless progress schedules.  As a rule of thumb, if the team are spending more than 5% of the time project reporting, things are going astray.

Project reporting is best left to an evolving PowerPoint presentation.  This means that at any time the project team can give an interesting and informative progress update.

I put forward a four quadrant project management approach.  To me a project is either 0%   25%   50%   75%   100% complete.  I am not interested in any in between assessments as they are very arbitrary in any case, see Exhibit 2 below.

Exhibit 2 Four Quadrant Project Management Approach

During the second and third quadrant consider bringing in an independent consultant to evaluate progress on all particularly complex assignments.

The key message for the projects in the last quadrant is to finish it no matter what the sunk cost is.  It is thus not particularly helpful for the accounting team to constantly focus on the over run.  It would be far better to focus on the remaining costs and compare these against the benefits of finishing.  The post project is the place for post-mortems.  This will help stop the tendency for staff to divert themselves away from an over-running project to a fresh new start.